Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PB & [What?!]

We all have fond memories of having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as children. Some of us had relatives or friends who turned us onto new ways of enjoying peanut butter sandwiches or maybe we were creative enough to think up one on our own.

For example, using jam instead of jelly isn't much of a variation and when a former co-worker said that she likes PB & syrup, it was easy to understand because syrup is sweet. From there, it's a short step to honey which is easier because it doesn't run as quickly as syrup.

PB & bananas were a surprise, however, as were PB & potato chips. After that, I discovered PB & smoked Vienna sausages which have to be smoked because regular Vienna sausages make the sandwich bland.

A few weeks ago, a friend revealed that she likes PB & ketchup sandwiches crediting her uncle for turning her on to them. That prompted another friend of hers to disclose that her mother likes PB & mustard sandwiches.

Willing to try almost anything at least once put me in the ketchup aisle during my last shopping trip.

I kind of wussed out, though, by asking for a couple of ketchup packets at the Arby's drive-thru window when I stopped for a Reuben. That's because I didn't want a whole bottle of ketchup to sit past it's expiration date in my refrigerator, again, if the PB & K didn't suit my taste.

My first sandwich had PB on one slice of bread and the Heinz ketchup was way too strong. My second attempt had PB on both slices and the ketchup was still too strong. I think a person either has to like ketchup a lot more than I do or I need to use less than a full packet to make it work for me. Yes, I'm willing to try it again and have a packet of Hunt's ketchup ready to go. All I need is bread.

I've yet to get up the nerve to try the PB & mustard. If it works out, it'll be another simple road trip recipe since mustard packets are easy to get and bread and peanut butter don't need to be refrigerated.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Taking Chance"

Tonight was the premiere cablecast of "Taking Chance," an original HBO movie starring Kevin Bacon, that is based on the journal of USMC Lt. Col. Michael Strobl (retired) who also wrote the screenplay with director Ross Katz.

It is a revealing, short at only 77 minutes, low-key, yet incredibly powerful movie of the true story about Strobl's escorting the body of USMC Lance Corporal Chance Phelps to his home town for burial.

Although Phelps was killed in Iraq, this is not a story about war nor the politics of the war.

It is about a moving, beautiful journey across America; a journey of honor, respect, care, and love; a story that I'm about to see for the second time as I type this and hope to eventually buy.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Avian Flu Pandemic

A friend let me know about an online news article about FEMA's planning for mass graves, vaccination drills, and martial law near Chicago. Although the subsequent comments are of the conspiracy theory, survivalist, TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It), apocalyptic nature speculating on a civil uprising against the government due to the failing economy and Obama's disappointing performance to date with his and the other politicians' pork-filled stimulus package (Since the people are hurting for money, let's give them a little back so we can make them pay a lot more over the long haul; the government's perverted version of usury.) my thoughts are that preparations are being made, among other emergency situations, for the avian flu pandemic that the CDC predicted over a year ago would hit the U.S. in three to five years if it continued at the rate it had been.

If the H5N1 strain of influenza mutates to the point where it can spread from human to human (currently, it goes from animal to human to no more than one additional human), predictions of the number of fatalities, based on the flu pandemic of 1918, are high enough to affect our infrastructure. Although some people are saying "if" it comes to the U.S., even though the American continents are protected by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Asian Avian Flu has spread so far that "if it arrives" is now "when it arrives."

From the CDC's "Current H5N1 Situation" webpage:

"(WHO) has reported human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Europe and the Near East. Indonesia and Vietnam have reported the highest number of H5N1 cases to date. Overall mortality in reported H5N1 cases is approximately 60%. The majority of cases have occurred among children and adults aged less than 40 years old. Mortality was highest in cases aged 10-19 years old."

The potential for infrastructural disruption is so severe that, for example, if you take a sick relative to a hospital, it's possible for the nursing staff to be so depleted that you should expect to have to stay there to provide nursing care for your relative yourself, under the direction of whatever medical staff remains.

Other areas of concern would be if your place of business shuts down, schools and stores close, and public transportation services are interrupted. Would you be able to work from home? What will you do for money if you can't or if banks close? Do you have enough educational and entertainment materials at home to keep your children up with their schooling and entertained during a long-term confinement at home? Will you have enough food, water, medicine, and sanitation supplies to last for at least two weeks? How will you get around if you currently rely on public transportation and don't have your own vehicle?

Being proactive might prove to be the best and simplest way of protecting yourself and your family from the flu itself. If everyone does it, we'll have a better chance of avoiding wide-spread societal repercussions from the get-go.

First, the practice of good sanitation helps prevent the spread of any disease. Wash your hands frequently and ensure that your children do the same, especially before handling food or clean laundry or touching their faces.

Second, ensure that everyone's inoculations are current. While annual flu shots won't deter avian flu - it will take several months to develop a vaccine after it mutates to a human contagion form - developing a resistance to seasonal flu will enhance overall good health and help a victim survive. Because most flu-related deaths are due to pneumonia, getting a pneumonia shot is also recommended especially for those over 65 or with diabetes or respiratory afflictions such as asthma.

Third, if you have acreage with a body of water on it, let your dog(s) help keep your livestock safe by encouraging them to chase off wild migratory fowl that want to drink and feed on your property.

Finally, when the pandemic arrives (may God forbid), we should be prepared to wear surgical face masks or N95 respirators whenever we're out in public. Considering that I've worked with people who wouldn't stay home when they were sick and contagious, and women who blew off washing their hands after using the bathroom (Pot-luck lunches at work? No, thank you! Ignoring the fact that food service workers have to wear gloves, one woman didn't believe she should have to wash her hands because restaurant employees can't be trusted to wash theirs.), wearing protective gear at work or school might be a good idea, too, and may prove effective at preventing transmission in the home as well.

Psalms 91:
1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Friday, February 13, 2009


With all the beautiful dogs appearing at the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday and Tuesday, it was easy for me to anticipate my blogging about dogs this week. However, in the midst of my remembering the dogs I've known, I learned that my favorite aunt, my mother's older sister, passed away this past Sunday night.

Our relationship wasn't typical, being stunted by the thousands of miles that usually separated us and by the sometimes intense feelings of rivalry expressed by my mother that I came to believe were the result of their father asking Mom, why couldn't she be more like Evangeline? Eventually, Mom couldn't overcome her personal demons that persuaded her to refuse all contact with her sister despite Evangeline's many attempts to reconcile.

Fortunately, before Mom got to her last straw, Auntie and I already had a relationship that Mom didn't later discourage. Mom was smart and knew that whatever resentment she held was not to be borne by me as well. Because of this, Auntie has the honor of being the pivot point for three key aspects of my life: photography, travel, and my relationship with the Lord.

Her influence on my photography was possibly inadvertent. Before her husband was transferred from wherever he was stationed in Germany, Auntie sent a Konica 35mm rangefinder camera to Mom who, after using it for a while, decided it was too complicated for her and passed it along to me. Being an avid shutterbug since before I received my first camera at age 12, receiving a 35mm camera when I was 16 was a happy event for me. I wore out the camera over the next five years and the practice proved invaluable. When I was 21, I was asked to do the publicity shots for a stage play that were published in the local newspaper.

Auntie's influence on my traveling came from a brief conversation at the Honolulu International Airport's baggage claim area. Instructed by Mom to help Evan with her luggage, I was surprised when she pulled a small suitcase from the carousel and began to walk toward the exit with it.

"What about your other suitcase?" I asked.

"I don't have another suitcase. This is it," Auntie replied.

My jaw dropped. Mom always had Dad call the airline to ask the limits for the free luggage allowance so she could pack to the max, taking advantage of Dad's taking only one suitcase for himself to add to her travel wardrobe and mine. From Mom's example, I thought women were supposed to have a four-piece matched set of luggage because they needed it for all the toiletries and clothing they had to take.

"Only one suitcase?" I was amazed. Evan didn't even have a carry-on bag, only her purse.

"I travel with other women from the office and need to be able to carry my own luggage," she said. "I have two pairs of slacks, four blouses, and a couple of changes of underwear. That's all I need."

That eye-opener enabled me to spend five days on Puerto Rico and St. Croix with only my purse, camera, and carry-on bag, and two weeks in Hawai`i with a garment bag instead of the carry-on. For a two-week road trip to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas and seeing a few friends along the way, I took my camera, laptop, and carry-on bag.

Aunt Evan also helped me learn that, although you can't always trust people, you can always trust God, by serving as His oracle during one visit we enjoyed after she retired and went to live with her son on the Big Island of Hawai`i. She said that she doesn't get the things that people ask her to bring back for them from her trips. I knew I was hearing significant advice although I was choosing not to heed it. After all, it was a good friend from college who had asked me to bring back a T-shirt and we had continued the relationship for over ten years. I trusted my friend to repay me.

When I returned home, I called the now-former-friend who said she had changed her mind. She refused to pay me for the T-shirt as she had promised, telling me to send it back to Honolulu to get my money back. (I kept it for a while, so I wouldn't forget the valuable lesson. And, although that single incident didn't break up our friendship at that time, it was a definite cooler, a wake-up call to the type of person she is.)

Auntie was sociable, vivacious, and petite like a little bird with sparkling eyes. Being with her wasn't always sunshine and roses, however. There were times we disagreed, our voices rising as the current argument heated. As we approached impasse, she had the wisdom to pause and ask, "But, we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord?" I'd say, "Yes," and we'd laugh, the tension broken and melted away.

I could write more, how her name came from the poem, "Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or how she was a street preacher when she was only ten. I recall that she had cars that were "different." Hers were the first Volkswagen Beetle and Opel in which I ever rode.

I'll miss her. I'm not in mourning or sad because there are no unresolved issues between us. The last words we said to one another were, "I love you." I don't need to say, "Good-bye," to her because I know in my heart, in my gut, in the very core of my being, that I'll see her again some day.

In the meantime, I hope her spirit has a nice nap. After 96 years on this earth, I expect she probably needs the rest.

1 Thessalonians 4:
13. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Entering Politics

There are currently a whopping 78 tabs open in my Firefox browser. This is because I was researching a couple of things and got sidetracked by the McCollum Memo that supposedly proves that President Franklin D. Roosevelt instigated Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor to give the United States a reason to enter World War II.

I say "supposedly" because I didn't read the memo. I went off on another sidetrack about how and why the several presidents since FDR lied to us to get the U.S. into wars including the former President Bush with the events of 9-11.

From there, I read about how the U.S. meets all of the 14 points of fascism (you may look it up for yourself as well as the McCollum Memo), ending up at a prediction that we'd be under a soft dictatorship by the end of Bush's second term.

Well, we're past that point and everyone can decide for themselves where we stand. What concerns me is the assertion that both the Democratic and Republican parties want the same thing, a fascist state instead of a republic, and that they use the same tactics to move the U.S. closer to that goal. The only thing they're in discord about is which party is in power.

I don't agree with all of the "evidence" the websites present to support that we're turning toward fascism because some are subject to interpretation. However, limiting the First Amendment in regards to free speech, chopping away at the Second Amendment by making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to bear arms, and dispatching with due process as stated in the Fifth Amendment are definite departures from our Bill of Rights and as such are unconstitutional.

Now that Barack Obama is our president, winning the election with his promise for change, what will we see? Will it be more of the same slide away from the ideals that made the United States of America one of the nations to which people most want to emigrate or will we see a return to the foundation that made us a great nation?

You see, no president has ever needed a contract with the people because the Constitution is that contract and the President accepts it when he swears to "...preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" upon taking office.

I also can't help wondering if people allow bad laws to pass because they're not paying attention to what their lawmakers are doing or if it's because they don't accept responsibility for the consequences of their personal choices, including the decision to follow God or not.

The other question I have is what actor looks enough like President Obama to portray him in the movies?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Today, February 1, marks the first anniversary of "Sound Off!"

It's been quite an accomplishment for me because I didn't know what I'd be writing about and didn't know if I could sustain it. At a total of 57 posts, it averages to slightly over a post each week although there were times that I didn't have something ready for you to read each weekend. The only negative aspect came from spammers who had me hopping to remove their junk before you could read them. I finally got to the point that I turned on comment moderation.

To my returning readers: Thank you very much for reading my raves, rants, and ramblings. As a writer, I need an outlet and it's gratifying to know that my words are reaching people all over the world.

To those who are referred from search engines and links on other sites: Thank you for stopping by. I hope you found helpful information and that your thinking was stimulated.

Special thanks go to my friend, Roxie Beishline, who supports my writing and remembers my birthday as the great friend she is overall.

My biggest "Thank you" goes to my Lord God who used Roxie to inspire me to start blogging in the first place. All the glory belongs to Him simply because He is the great Creator.

Happy Anniversary!